About the Everyone’s Earth Lecture Series

Everyone’s Earth: Conversations on Race and Environment is a lecture series that showcases and promotes voices of color, highlighting the issues at the intersection of diversity and environmental justice. The series is designed to raise public awareness around issues and opportunities related to diversity and inclusion across the environmental spectrum.

Everyone’s Earth events are conducted one or more times each year, either as standalone lectures or coupled with other Nelson signature events, such as Tales from Planet Earth film events and the Nelson Institute Earth Day event.

Past Everyone's Earth Lectures

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2020: J. Drew Lanham - Coloring the Conservation Conversation

November 12, 2020

Black-and-white portrait of J. Drew LanhamAt this virtual edition of Everyone’s Earth, J. Drew Lanham discussed what it means to embrace the full breadth of his African American heritage and his deep kinship to nature and adoration of birds. As an ornithologist, college professor, poet, author, and conservation activist, Lanham offered unique perspectives that expand our awareness of the natural world and progress our moral responsibility forward in new ways. By examining how conservation is both a rigorous science and evocative art, Lanham invites diversity and race to play active roles in celebrating our natural world.

A native of Edgefield, South Carolina, J. Drew Lanham is the author of The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature, which received the Reed Award from the Southern Environmental Law Center and the Southern Book Prize, and was a finalist for the John Burroughs Medal.

He is a birder, naturalist, and hunter-conservationist who has published essays and poetry in publications including Orion, Audubon, Flycatcher, and Wilderness, and in several anthologies, including The Colors of Nature, State of the Heart, Bartram’s Living Legacy, and Carolina Writers at Home.

An Alumni Distinguished Professor of Wildlife Ecology and Master Teacher at Clemson University, he and his family live in the Upstate of South Carolina, a soaring hawk’s downhill glide from the southern Appalachian escarpment that the Cherokee once called the Blue Wall.

2018: Eddy Harris - River to the Heart: Film Screening and Discussion

October 30 and November 1, 2018

Scenic view of a lush forest and river with a small headshot of Eddy Harris in the lower right-hand corner

An in-depth exploration of the cultural and environmental issues faced by those living along the Mississippi River, River to the Heart, follows Harris as he paddles the full length of the Mississippi in a canoe for the second time in 30 years. During his journey, Harris explores magnificent landscapes, encounters people from all walks of life, and delves into topics such as diversity, inclusion and outdoor access equity. Harris also showcases the cultural and environmental changes that have occurred along the Mississippi over the past three decades, sharing insight into race relations, socioeconomic issues, environmental challenges and how our shared human connection to nature can help to bring about understanding and unity.

Following the screening of this inspiring film, Harris answered questions and facilitated a community discussion of the film as well as the opportunities and challenges surrounding race, the environment and access to outdoor recreation equity.

2017: Natasha Bowens - The Color of Food: Reflecting on our Food Movement

September 20, 2017

Natasha Bowens speaking at a podium

Natasha Bowens, author of the book The Color of Food: Stories of Race, Resilience and Farming, challenges us to reflect on our movement for good food and food justice. Her lecture explored issues of justice and inclusivity in our movement while amplifying the role of communities of color and challenging the status quo of agricultural identity.

Through sharing stories of farmers of color, Natasha teaches us that the good food movement is about more than buying local and protecting our soil – it’s about digging deep and discovering that true food sovereignty means a place at the table for everyone.

Natasha Bowens is an author, grower and community activist who focuses on building empowerment and community through food and storytelling. The Forward Review calls her book, The Color of Food: Stories of Race, Resilience and Farming, “a trailblazing look at the past and present of North American farming” through the eyes of farmers of color. Natasha spent five years gathering stories and portraits of farmers and food activists from Black, Latina, Asian and Native communities across the country – stories that invite us to dig deep into race, culture and community.

Her work has garnered national attention such as The Atlantic, Mother Earth News, VICE, YES! Magazine and NPR. She has shared her work across the country from Purdue, Tuskegee and Harvard to the National Organic Farming Association and the USDA. She currently resides in Frederick, Maryland with her husband and one year old daughter where she runs community gardens as well as gardening and cooking programs in Frederick’s public housing communities. She is also breaking ground on a woman-owned fruit and flower farm.

2017: Break the Cycle: The Power of Food to Interrupt the Revolving Door of Prisons

April 24 and May 2, 2017

This documentary film screening examined the interconnections between race, mass incarceration and urban agriculture. The April 24 event included a panel discussion, and the May 2 event featured a conversation facilitated by Fabu Phillis Carter.

Building Food Justice Capacity in South Madison is a four-year community-university partnership that uses food as a strategy to break cycles of systematic incarceration of minorities by our criminal justice system. The partnership asks the question: How could improving healthy food access in South Madison simultaneously facilitate effective reentry for formerly incarcerated people?

  • Cinematography and Editor: Nyal Mueenuddin
  • Producers: Mattie Naythons, Jamie Trapp, Katie Faryniarz, Mackenzie Marcus, and Carrie Lierl

April 24 Panel Discussion Participants

  • Anthony Cooper, Sr., Nehemiah Center for Urban Leadership and Development
  • Carmella Glenn, Just Bakery, Madison Urban Ministry
  • Alfonso Morales, Department of Urban and Regional Planning
  • Robert Pierce, Neighborhood Food Solutions
  • Dadit Hidayat (facilitator), Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies

2016: Lauret Savoy - Trace: Memory, History, Race, and the American Landscape

November 3, 2016

Black-and-white portrait of Lauret Savoy

Lauret Edith Savoy’s life and work draw from her need to put the eroded world into language, to remember fragmented pasts into present. A woman of African American, Euro-American, and Native American heritage, she explores the stories we tell of the American land’s origins – and the stories we tell of ourselves in this land. For her, writing of the complex intertwinings of natural and cultural histories is a way of seeking home among the ruins and shards that surround us all. The work is as necessary as breath.

Lauret’s latest book is Trace: Memory, History, Race, and the American Landscape (Counterpoint Press), which won the 2016 American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation. It was also a finalist for the 2016 PEN American Open Book Award and Phillis Wheatley Book Award, as well as shortlisted for the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing. With Alison Hawthorne Deming, she co-edited The Colors of Nature: Culture, Identity, and the Natural World (Milkweed Editions, expanded and revised in 2011). She also compiled and edited Bedrock: Writers on the Wonders of Geology (2006, with Eldridge and Judy Moores), and coauthored Living with the Changing California Coast (2005, with Gary Griggs and Kiki Patsch). Lauret’s essays and other writings have appeared in the Georgia Review, Gettysburg Review, Huffington Post, Travel & Leisure, ArtForum, Christian Science Monitor, and Orion magazine, as well as in books such as Moral Ground: Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril.

Lauret is a professor of environmental studies and geology at Mount Holyoke College, a photographer, and pilot. Born in California, and a familial native of Washington, D.C., she graduated cum laude from Princeton University, then received her M.S. in earth sciences from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and Ph.D. from Syracuse University. Winner of Mount Holyoke’s Distinguished Teaching Award, she has also held fellowships from the Smithsonian Institution and Yale University. She is a Fellow of the Geological Society of America.

2016: Carolyn Finney - Black Faces, White Spaces

March 1, 2016

Black Faces, White Spaces

A one-hour, open conversation on themes in Carolyn Finney’s book, Black Faces, White Spaces (University of North Carolina Press, 2014), which examines how the environment has been understood, commodified and represented by white and black Americans and others, and asks the question: Why are African Americans represented as they are when it comes to interest in nature, outdoor recreation and environmentalism?

Carolyn Finney was a keynote speaker at the 10th annual Nelson Institute Earth Day Conference.

Roundtable Participants

  • Gloria Castillo-Posada, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies
  • Dantrell Cotton, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies
  • Samuel Dennis Jr., Department of Landscape Architecture
  • Brigitte Fielder, Department of Comparative Literature and Folklore Studies
  • Alfonso Morales, Department of Urban and Regional Planning
  • Carolina Sarmiento, School of Human Ecology
  • Moderator: Anna M. Gade, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies

2016: James Mills - An American Ascent

April 27, 2016

Two people standing amid a snowy mountainous landscape, dressed in winter gear and sunglasses and looking up at a bright sky

The Nelson Institute hosted a free screening of the award-winning documentary An American Ascent, followed by a discussion with James Mills, a writer for the film and author of the book The Adventure Gap: Changing the Face of the Outdoors.

An American Ascent chronicles the first African American expedition to tackle North America’s highest peak, Denali. Concerned that many people of color do not consider the outdoors as a place for them, in June 2013, nine African Americans took on the grueling 20,237-foot peak of the continent’s biggest mountain, aiming to build a legacy and become role models for children in urban communities and people of color all over America.

The film won best documentary at the San Diego Black Film Festival, best feature film at the Mountain and Adventure Film Festival, and best feature documentary at the Roxbury International Film Festival.